Positioning is the strategy of occupying a distinct piece of real estate in the mind of the customer relative to the competition. It’s possible to position a product, service, institution, city, country, even an individual. For the simplicity of this article, we’ll concentrate on products and the possible strategies behind positioning them.
People make choices everyday as a consequence of rational thinking and emotional influence. It is worth noting that according to research studies, emotional influence weighs heavier in the decision-making process.
Positioning gives the target audience a reason to prefer one product over another. It does this by leveraging the brand core and brand identity to formulate messages, subtle and obvious, that tell customers what they are buying into.
Three Schools of thought
There are three schools of thought when it comes to positioning. The first believes that finding an unoccupied competitive space or point of contention makes the best case for building a position. This approach usually follows the path of the additional features, superior performance, economy, availability, quantity, etc. The primary focus is the competition and how the product compares to them.
The second school of thought believes that positioning starts with the customer, the fact that customers already possess a form of reference and knowledge about the product category and that it makes more sense to use their existing cognitive information to occupy a position that resonates suitably. Here the primary focus is the customer and the idea is to manipulate what’s already in the customer’s mind. This is a good approach when the category isn’t new or unique and customers are substantially knowledgable.
Often, customers have established benchmarks based on prior knowledge and experience. Perhaps a form of reference that they fall back on when exposed to new alternatives. Unless it is an entirely new product category, where you have the privilege of setting that benchmark, you will have to work with what’s already in their heads.
The third school believes in an advertising-led positioning strategy. Believe it or not, there are companies that throw stuff against the wall and hope that it sticks. They leverage advertising to highlight features and benefits and later conduct research to see where they reside in the mind of the customer. Some even rely on advertising to provide creatives that help articulate the product position. Businesses that fall in this category don’t do as well, or worse, survive very long.
According to Al Ries and Jack Trout, “The average mind is already a dripping sponge that can only soak up more information at the expense of what’s already there”.
We’ve reached the stage of over-communication and information overload. If you don’t believe it, try logging on to social media, turning on the radio, surfing the internet, watching television or even attempting to walk down the street without some sort of advertisement catching your eye. In fact, it’s now a monetary avenue to offer content free advertising.
Whether your brand is functional, lifestyle or experiential, you may employ positioning strategies depending on their circumstance.
- A market leader positioning strategy
- A follower positioning strategy
- A me-too positioning strategy (no, not that one)
- A competitor repositioning strategy
Finding your unique position is accomplished by creating a formal positioning statement which is used for internal guidance purposes. A few lines of text that talk about your product, the target user, how it solves their problems, how it differs from the competition and why it would be the preferred choice.
Let’s have a look at a sample positioning statement:
To [our target market] who have a [target market need] ,our [product] offers [benefit/solution] unlike [our competition] who offer [competitor benefits to the target group]. Our target market will prefer our brand because [key differentiator].
With the proliferation of products on the market and the resulting noise created, positioning has become an important component in Go-to-market strategies. This is because, customers practice what is known as selective listening on account to an information overload. This becomes especially true when their familiarity with the product category increases. They establish forms or reference and compartmentalize information.
Hence a clear reason and message as to why your brand stands out in the clutter and gels with their line of thinking is necessary to make it through their filtration system.